Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Chocolate Cake - Country Living Recipe

One of my favourite magazines is Country Living, showcasing all that is beautiful about the English countryside, its crafts and its cooking.  With hens, an old house and a slightly untended garden, I am living the dream!  In their April 2014 edition, they published a little booklet called "Reclaim the Weekend".  A great idea, but I now have a guilt-list of projects to complete... this one, though, was easy!  It is a delicious chocolate cake - so good, I thought I'd share it with you.  It worked well being gluten and dairy free.   I recently visited a dear friend, whose daughter, Lucie, is an aspiring baker, and loves making chocolate things.  Lucie, this one is for you....

Country Living Chocolate Cake

Country Living Chocolate Cake

8oz/225g unsalted butter, diced (or spread)
8oz/225g caster sugar
175g/6oz self-raising flour
2oz/50g cocoa, sifted
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 medium eggs
1.5floz/100ml milk

Butter Icing:
3oz/85g unsalted butter, softened (or spread)
4oz/100g icing sugar, sifted
2tsp cocoa, sifted (my son prefers 2 tbsp)
1 egg yolk

Chocolate Icing:
4oz/100g milk chocolate (or dairy-free chocolate)
½ oz/15g unsalted butter (or spread)
1oz/30g cocoa, sifted
3tbsp/50ml tbsp coffee or water
1tbsp golden syrup

Preheat the oven to 190 deg C, and grease a deep 20cm (8”) loose base cake tin.   Cream the butter and sugar before adding the remaining cake ingredients and beating well.  Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin, and bake for approx 45 minutes, or until a warm skewer comes out clean.  Slow is best, so don't be afraid to cook it longer.  If it starts to brown on the top, cover loosely with a sheet of foil.  Tip the cake out and cool it on a wire rack.

To make the butter icing, using a hand whisk beat together the butter, sugar and cocoa until fluffy, then add the egg yolk and whisk for another minute. 
Slice the cold cake in half horizontally and spread the butter icing evenly over the bottom half.  Sandwich the cakes together (they should be level!). 
For the chocolate icing, melt the chocolate and butter together in a microwave or heatproof bowl over water.  Stir until smooth (if it "seizes" - ie, goes grainy -  at this point, add a good dollop of cream and beat it into submission).    In a small pan, heat the remaining ingredients until almost boiling.  Stir into the melted chocolate, smooth over the top of the cake and leave to set for a couple of hours.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Rhubarb and Ginger Fudge Crumble

I have two pretty new chickens, Rhubarb and Ginger (one is white, one is ginger-coloured), so this pudding is in their honour, although none of their beautiful eggs features in it.  This is a tweak on Claire Macdonald's absolutely all-time amazing Rhubarb Fudge Crumble, which I have blogged previously, but with a heavenly gingery tang to it - more than a tang if you find one of the pieces!  Husband, who now fancies himself as a puddings critic, pronounced this one "jolly good" - this is high praise from an Englishman of a certain age... Don't make this one for its looks - it's definitely not for Masterchef.  Serves 4-6 and can be gluten and dairy free.

Rhubarb and Ginger Fudge Crumble

Rhubarb and Ginger Fudge Crumble

1 ½ lb/900g rhubarb, cut in 1” pieces
6-8 pieces of stem ginger (to taste!) cut into large shards
the syrup from the ginger plus brown sugar to taste 

for the crumble: 
4oz/110g butter (or spread)
4oz/110g Demerara sugar
6oz/170g digestive biscuits, crushed to crumbs (gluten-free can be used)
1 rounded teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger 

Put cut up rhubarb in an ovenproof dish with 3tbsp water, ginger, syrup and sugar.  Cover with foil and bake at 350deg F, 180deg C for about 30 minutes until the rhubarb is soft but not mushy.  Cool slightly, though this is not necessary if you are in a hurry.

Melt the butter in a saucepan, stir in the Demerara sugar, digestive crumbs, cinnamon and ginger.  Cook for 5 minutes, stirring from time to time.  Then cover the rhubarb with the crumble and bake in a hot oven 200 deg C for 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown.  Remove from the oven and serve either warm with vanilla ice cream or cold with whipped cream/Greek yoghurt.  

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Easter Fairy Cakes (Gluten and Dairy Free if you wish)

A final Easter recipe- little gluten-free fairy cakes, though fairies have absolutely no connection with Easter!  These are very quick to make, and were also dairy-free as I used a buttery spread.  Taste was not sacrificed, rest assured. You can, of course, use standard flour and softened butter instead.  I made these for a gluten-free choir friend, using Dove's Self Raising Flour Blend and my own delicious fresh free-range eggs.  A half tsp of vanilla also disguises the lack of a buttery taste when using a margarine or soft spread.  These are ideal cakes for children to make, and you can use anything on the icing, including fresh flowers which I saw done so beautifully recently (just make sure they are not poisonous!) Happy Easter, and enjoy the feast!

Easter Fairy Cakes (Gluten and Dairy Free) 

Easter Fairy Cakes -  (Gluten and Dairy Free)

2 large fresh eggs
4oz/110g  sieved self raising flour blend (or standard s/r flour)
4oz/110g  caster sugar
4oz/110g buttery spread (or soft butter)
1 level tsp baking powder
½ tsp vanilla essence

approx 2oz/50g icing sugar, with water
mini eggs, fresh flowers, sprinkles, whatever takes your fancy

Preheat oven to 180 deg C, and line a 12 cup muffin tin with little paper liners (a size smaller than standard muffin liners).

In a food processor or Kenwood, beat the buttery spread and sugar together first (this adds air) then add the egg and vanilla, finally the flour.  Divide between the liners and cook for 15 or so minutes (depending on the heat of your oven) until risen and golden brown.  To test, they should have come away from the edges slightly, and if you put a (heated) knife or skewer into the middle, it will come out clean.

Tip the cakes out of the tins onto a wire rack and leave to cool.  When cool, decorate with icing sugar and mini-eggs.  

Friday, 18 April 2014

Orange Caramel Profiteroles/Salambos à l'Orange

These delicious little orange-flavoured caramel choux are a refreshing change to the ubiquitous chocolate profiteroles.... made in exactly the same way, you just dip them in caramel and then flavour the cream with orange liqueur/juice.  Taken from the Cordon Bleu book, I made these for a group of medics, and they disappeared without trace!   Choux pastry is really very easy so long as you don't add too much egg, but beat the bejaysus out of it before cooking.  Imperfections are easily disguised - you can stuff them with cream and hide any unsightly lumps in the caramel - look at the ones below, they are definitely not perfect! The recipe quantities below are precise, and need to be followed.   Don’t allow the water to boil for long, but, equally, it does need to boil as the heat causes the starch in the flour to expand. Go on, try!  

Salambos a l'Orange/Orange Caramel Profiteroles

Orange Caramel Profiteroles (Salambos à l'Orange)

3 ¾ oz/105g plain flour sieved twice with a pinch of salt
3oz/85g butter, cut into cubes
7 ½ fl oz/210ml water
3 small eggs

2oz caster sugar
½ pint double cream
1 orange

Put the sieved flour into a small bowl and have ready.  In a medium saucepan put the water and butter.  When the butter has melted, bring the water to the boil, take the pan off the heat and immediately pour in all the flour.  Beat the mixture with a wooden spoon until it leaves the sides of the pan and is smooth.   This is the roux. 

Put the roux into a Kenwood/Kitchen Aid bowl, then beat up the eggs and add in small quantities, beating until smooth.  You could also use a hand-held mixer (or strong arm).   As my lovely Cordon Bleu book says, the roux should be smooth and shiny, and hold its shape.  It isn’t necessary to use all the eggs if you think that the last drop will make the roux too soft. 

Heat the oven to 180 deg C and cover two baking sheets with parchment.  Using a ½” pipe, pipe little profiteroles, not putting them too close together on the baking sheet.  With a damp finger, press down the ends. 

Bake for about 15-20 minutes until they are well risen and starting to go brown.  Cool on a baking rack.   This makes about 30 or so, depending on size.

To Finish:  Cream and Caramel

Put 2oz caster sugar into a pan and heat it until it caramelises.  Dip each choux into it (I found that, by putting a hole in each one when it was cooling, so as to let out the moisture, I could then use the hole as a support for my finger when dipping) and then put onto waxed paper.  

Whip approx ½ pint cream, adding a slug of Cointreau and some orange zest, and pipe it into each profiterole, using the hole you made earlier!  Pile onto a plate and serve with strips of orange peel and lots of cream. 

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Easter Cake (or Simnel Cake)

I suppose this is really a Simnel Cake, but it never seems to get done in time, so is usually my family Easter Cake.   My mother always added the icing to an otherwise boring marzipan top, and the little eggs were either floating, sinking or rolling around, depending on how much of a hurry she was in at the time!   The recipe is not a standard one either, as it is the delicious Luncheon Plum Cake from my favourite Cordon Bleu Cookery (Hume and Downes), with a goodly slab of bought marzipan - sometimes cheating is necessary!

Easter Cake or Simnel Cake 

Easter Cake/Simnel Cake 

8oz/225g butter at room temperature
8oz/225g soft brown sugar
4 large eggs, beaten
12oz/350g plain flour
4oz/110g glacé cherries
8oz/225g raisins
8oz/225g sultanas
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp mixed spice
1 lemon, grated rind and juice
a little milk or cider

500g pack marzipan, egg white, 3oz/75g icing sugar, mini eggs, chickens

Preheat oven to 180 deg C, grease and line the base and sides of a 9” cake tin with non-stick baking parchment. 

Cream the butter and lemon rind, then add the sugar and beat until the mixture is light and (relatively!) fluffy.  Add the eggs, about 1/3 a time and continue beating, adding a couple of tablespoons of the flour so that the mixture doesn’t separate.   Divide the rest of the flour, mixing the fruit into one half, and the soda and spice to the other half.   

Stir in the fruit/flour mix, plus the lemon juice.  When this is all mixed in, add the soda/flour and enough milk or cider so that the uncooked cake will drop from the spoon.    Pour it into the tin and bake for about 1 ½ hours, turning the oven down to approx 160 deg C after the first hour.   If the cake looks as though it is getting too brown, protect the top with a piece of foil.  When it has cooked, remove from the tin and allow it to cool on a wire rack.  

Turn it over (as the cake invariably sinks a little) and brush the top with egg white.  Divide the marzipan in half.  Cut the first half into 11 and make little balls of marzipan.  Roll the second half to about 2cm/1" wider than the cake, and put onto the top.  Fold back the flappy edges and crimp to make a strong support for the little balls.  Brush with egg white and place the balls on the top, putting some egg white on them too.   Put under a grill until they have browned slightly.   When cool, mix up some icing sugar and water and pour into the middle section.   Judging it carefully, add chickens and eggs!   

Friday, 11 April 2014

Rhubarb and Custard Tart

Do you remember Rhubarb and Custard boiled sweets?  Those slightly sickly red and yellow striped ones?  This is the more grown-up version, being a delicious tart of baked rhubarb in a very rich and creamy custard. This recipe is from Country Living Magazine, many years ago, but for some reason I hadn't tried it.  Having now done so, I can highly recommend it, as it is very easy, and absolutely delicious, hot or cold!   Please note that the recipe calls for a deep fluted tart tin.  I made it in a shallower one, and had enough of the rhubarb and custard left over to make several tartlets too (I keep little tartlet cases in the freezer, made with left over pastry, ready to use).

Rhubarb and Custard Tart

Rhubarb and Custard Tart

6oz/150g plain flour
4oz/100g unsalted butter
1tbsp caster sugar (I omitted this)
pinch salt
1 egg yolk (I use a whole egg)
2 tbsp ice cold water

12oz/500g trimmed rhubarb
3 tbsp caster sugar (2 tbsp plus 1 later in the recipe)
250ml/8floz crème fraiche
2 large egg yolks  
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 190 deg C and put a sold baking tray into the oven to heat.     Make the pastry (in a food processor, add the butter to the flour, sugar and salt, process until it looks like crumbs, add the egg and cold water as needed to make a smooth dough).    For best results, put the pastry in a ball into the fridge for at least 20 minutes, then roll out into a 9” x 1 ½”/23cm x 3.5cm loose bottomed flan tin and brush the base lightly with egg white.   Chill it again for another 20 minutes.     Cut the rhubarb into ½”/1.5cm lengths, mix with 2tbsp sugar.  Put a sheet of baking parchment onto a large baking tray and tip the rhubarb onto it.  Cook for about 15-20 minutes until it softens.  Allow to cool (I didn’t have time, so microwaved it until it softened and then put it into the oven for about 5 minutes).

Bake the pastry case on the hot baking sheet for 15 minutes or until golden brown (this is to prevent a soggy bottom!).   Reduce the oven to 180 deg C. 

Beat the last tbsp sugar with the crème fraiche, egg yolks and vanilla.   Arrange the rhubarb neatly in the shell, then pour in the crème fraiche mixture and cook it for about 30 minutes until the custard has set and is slightly brown in places.   The recipe says that it should be allowed to cool to room temperature before serving.  

If you like this recipe, why not let me know how you got on?  I'm also on Facebook "Kate's Puddings" and Twitter @katespuddings.  My cookbook is on sale via my website www.katespuddings.co.uk 

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Chocolate Dipped Candied Orange Peel

Have you any idea how easy these are to make?  You see them all the time in elegant chocolate shops (I love elegant chocolate shops):  delicious strips of candied orange peel dipped in luxurious dark chocolate.  Having a lot of orange rinds after making the Blood Orange Sorbet, I thought I'd make some to see exactly how difficult they were to do.  They are not only very easy, but they are also extremely easy to eat, especially if you decided that, as fruit, they have to be part of your 5 a day...  the less beautiful ones got chopped up as mixed peel, which tasted far, far nicer than the bought kind.  Next time I'm going to do it with lemon as well, which will really enhance the hot cross buns!   You could make this with left-over peel, or make a fruit salad with the oranges.

Chocolate Dipped Candied Orange Peel

Chocolate Dipped Candied Orange Peel

3 oranges (or quantity to suit) with reasonably thick skins
1lb/450g sugar
12 floz/ ¾ pt  water
4oz/110g dark (or white) chocolate

When I did this I cut the oranges in halves to squeeze, then scooped out any loose pith.   Otherwise you could score the orange in quarters and peel off the skin, again scraping off loose pith (it is bitter).

Cut the orange into thin strips about ¼”/5mm wide, discarding any chunky sections (plus the label and stalk).  Now you have to blanch the peel by putting it into a large pan and covering it with water.  Bring this to the boil.  When it has come to the boil, discard the water and put fresh cold water into the pan.  Bring the peel to the boil a second time, and then discard the water.   You could stop here, if you wanted the peel to have a little of the classic bitter taste, or go for a third boiling.  Your choice!  Pour the last discard through a sieve to retrieve the oranges. 

Now put the recipe quantity of water and sugar into the pan and bring it to a simmering temperature, stirring so you dissolve all the sugar in the water.  This forms a syrup.  Drop the peels gently into this syrup and simmer for approximately 45 minutes – the peel should go slightly translucent (but doesn’t always, so after about 50 minutes give up!).  Don’t stir the peel, as apparently it crystallises the sugar. 

Drain off the syrup (you could keep it for your next batch, or for soaking fruit to make a fruit cake).  Wanting my peels to be dipped in chocolate, I didn’t roll them in caster sugar, but you could do this before leaving them to dry on a rack. 

Melt the chocolate and dip each peel before placing it on waxed paper to dry.  Store in an airtight tin – if you don’t temper the chocolate it will go matt after a few days.   You can also freeze them, but I haven’t had any that have lasted that long! 

Friday, 4 April 2014

Pear and Apple Crumble with Oat and Almond Top

Sometimes, crumble just isn't crumble... this is a special gluten-free version, with a really beautiful rocky crumble texture, especially for all you gluten-free pudding-lovers.  The jumbo oats are an essential part, as they mostly keep their shape, and the ground almonds make the pear and apple mixture sing!   I'm currently watching Masterchef, and one of the contestants produced a crumble.  The chefs noted that crumble didn't look particularly neat.  They are quite right!  However, my testers didn't seem to mind.  

Pear and Apple Crumble with Oat and Almond Top

Pear and Apple Crumble with Oat and Almond Top 

1 ½ lb/900g apples and pears (unpeeled weight)
brown sugar to taste
small quantity of water

4oz/110g jumbo oats
4oz/110g ground almonds
3oz/225g Demerara sugar 
4oz/110g chilled butter

Oven:  preheat to 200deg C,

Peel and core the apples and pears, then cut into chunks.  Put into a saucepan with a little water and simmer gently until the apples start to get fluffy at the edges but don’t lose their shape.     Add the sugar and pour this into a baking/pie dish.      

Cut the butter into small pieces and mix it into the ground almonds.  Add the jumbo oats and the sugar.  The aim is for a rocky mixture with that lovely uneven texture, so don't keep mixing until it becomes pastry!   Tip the crumble over the fruit, making sure it reaches the edges of the dish.    Bake for about 25 minutes until the top is lightly browned and crisp, and the fruit is starting to bubble.   Serve hot, with proper custard.

This serves approx 6.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Mozzarella and Garlic Flatbread

Just for a change, I thought I'd blog something savoury, in this case a really delicious garlic and mozzarella flatbread.   It's not only ridiculously easy to make, but you can do it in advance, slowing down the rising (after all, it is meant to be flat) by leaving it in the fridge overnight, or for 24 hrs.  Definitely not a high-maintenance bread, the intended flatness is a blessing for lazy cooks like me!  You could make it without the garlic, so just herbs and cheese.  It would also make a great pizza base.  This quantity makes two flatbreads about 12"/30cm diameter.

Mozzarella and Garlic Flatbread

Garlic and Mozzarella Flatbread

8floz/250ml warm water
1 sachet dried yeast
300g/10oz white strong (bread) flour
1tsp salt
½ tsp sugar
2 tbsp olive oil

3oz/75g softened butter or spread
1 clove of garlic, chopped finely
2oz/50g grated Mozzarella cheese
4tbsp grated Parmesan or Cheddar cheese
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
pinch of salt and a good grind of fresh pepper

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, then add the lukewarm water and the olive oil.  Bring together to make a soft dough, and turn the dough onto a floured work surface.  Knead it for a couple of minutes – you might have to add more flour at this point, as the dough doesn’t want to be too sticky.    Put the dough back into the bowl, cover with a cloth and leave it to rise for about half an hour.  It should have doubled in size.

Shake the dough back into the work surface, knead again for a couple of minutes.  Then divide it in two, and spread each half onto a large greased baking tray – it doesn’t roll very well unless you have the rolling pin well floured!   Try to stretch the dough out so that it is about ½”/1cm thick. 

Spread the softened butter on the dough, and then sprinkle on the other ingredients using a generous hand.   Now turn the oven to 180 deg C (this time delay allows the flatbread to rise again slightly) and bake the bread for approx 20 minutes until it is golden brown and the cheese on top is bubbling. 

You can either cook both at the same time, or keep the second one, covered in cling film, for up to two days in the fridge.